Talbott, Strobe 1946–
Talbott, Strobe 1946–
Born April 25, 1946, in Dayton, OH; son of Nelson S. (a businessman) and Helen Josephine Talbott; married Brooke Lloyd Shearer (a journalist), November 17, 1971; children: two sons. Education: Yale University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1968; Oxford University, B.Litt., 1971.
Journalist. Time, Washington, DC, Eastern European correspondent, 1971-73, State Department correspondent, 1974-76, White House correspondent, 1976-77, diplomatic correspondent, 1977-84, Washington bureau chief, 1984-89, editor-at-large, 1989-93; Department of State, Washington, DC, deputy secretary, 1994-2001; Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, New Haven, CT, director, 2001-02; Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, president, 2002—; writer. Trustee of Yale University and Hotchkiss School; served as director of Endowment for International Peace, Council on Foreign Relations, and Aspen Strategy Group.
Council on Foreign Relations, Phi Beta Kappa.
Yale Corp. fellowship, 1976; honorary M.A., Yale University, 1976; honorary doctorates from the Monterey Institute, Trinity College, Georgetown University, and Fairfield University; Edward Weintal Prize for Distinguished Diplomatic Reporting, 1980 and 1985; Overseas Press Club award, 1983; Sidney Hillman Foundation award, 1984, for Deadly Gambits: The Reagan Administration and the Stalemate in Nuclear Arms Control; named ambassador-at-large for Russia and other former Soviet republics by President Bill Clinton, 1993.
(Editor and translator) Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers, introduction and notes by Edward Crankshaw, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1970.
(Editor and translator) Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament, introduction by Jerrold L. Schecter, foreword by Edward Crankshaw, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1974.
Endgame: The Inside Story of SALT II, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
The Russians and Reagan, foreword by Cyrus Vance, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Deadly Gambits: The Reagan Administration and the Stalemate in Nuclear Arms Control, Knopf (New York, NY), 1984.
(With Michael Mandelbaum) Reagan and Gorbachev, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1987.
(Author of introduction) Time editors, Mikhail S. Gorbachev: An Intimate Biography, edited by Donald Morrison, New American Library (New York, NY), 1988.
The Master of the Game: Paul Nitze and the Nuclear Peace, Knopf (New York, NY), 1989.
(With Michael R. Beschloss) At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.
(Editor, with Nayan Chanda) The Age of Terror: America and the World after September 11, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2001.
The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy, Random House (New York, NY), 2002.
Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb, Brookings Institution Press (Washington, DC), 2004, revised edition, 2006.
Engaging with Russia: The Next Phase: a Report to the Trilateral Commission, Trilateral Commission (Washington, DC), 2006.
The Great Experiment: The Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Quest for a Global Nation, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2008.
Author of foreign affairs column for Time International, 1977-78. Contributor to periodicals, including Foreign Affairs.
Strobe Talbott is a noted journalist who has also worked in the U.S. Department of State and served as an executive in academia. "I decided on a career in journalism early in my college years at Yale," Talbott once told CA. "Russian language and literature was my academic major, and it has been a continuing interest of mine; but I always saw that study primarily as a way of developing a tool that would be useful to me as a journalist."
Talbott began his journalism career by writing for Time magazine while studying Russian literature at Oxford University. Later, after substituting for Time's bureau chief in Moscow, Talbott was hired by the magazine to translate and edit recently acquired tapes made by former Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. Describing his work on this massive project, Talbott told an interviewer for the Cleveland Press that he worked from a direct Russian transcript of Khrushchev's tapes. "Much of it was rambling and sometimes confusing, so I had to do quite a bit of editing to make it into a readable book," he explained.
Talbott's background in Russian studies continued to prove useful when he took on another major project for Time: the reconstruction of the two and a half years of the Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT) negotiations. Talbott initially published his work as an article in the magazine, then expanded it into Endgame: The Inside Story of SALT II. A Foreign Affairs critic noted that Talbott writes "with skill, apparent accuracy and considerable detail." Even Deborah Shapley, who contended in her Washington Post Book World assessment that the book lacks sufficient analysis and diversity of perspective, conceded that it nonetheless constitutes "a remarkably detailed and readable history of the horse-trading within the administration and with the Soviets."
In Deadly Gambits: The Reagan Administration and the Stalemate in Nuclear Arms Control, Talbott once again turns to the politics of arms control, this time recounting the policies of the Reagan administration, which sometimes seemed to value public approval over productive policymaking. Some critics questioned the validity of Talbott's inside account. Richard Owen asked in the London Times: "What exactly is an Inside Story, and how does Mr. Talbott know so much about the internal workings of the Administration?" Jim Miller, though, declared in Newsweek that Deadly Gambits serves as "a fascinating glimpse at the intrigues, petty power struggles and recondite debates that have shaped American policy."
A more recent volume, The Master of the Game: Paul Nitze and the Nuclear Peace, relates arms advisor Paul Nitze's longtime efforts to reach a diplomatic resolution of the arms race. In the New Republic, Stanley Hoffmann described the book as "rather sketchy," and he deemed it "neither a full-fledged psychological life history nor a thorough study of a career." Lord Zuckerman, though, wrote in the New York Review of Books that Talbott's book serves as "a storehouse of instant information."
After publishing The Master of the Game, Talbott accepted an appointment as deputy secretary in the Department of State, where he remained to the end of President Clinton's administration. In 2001 he left the state department to become director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. He stayed at the Yale Center only a year, then assumed the presidency of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. At the Brookings Institution Web site, Talbott described his appointment as "a great honor and opportunity."
In 2001, soon after the September 11 destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, Talbott—in collaboration with fellow editor Nayan Chanda—published The Age of Terror: America and the World after September 11, a collection of essays contemplating the changes triggered by the terrorist action. Writing in Library Journal, Marcia L. Sprules observed that the various contributors "have succeeded in expressing … collective wisdom in an accessible style." Talbott followed The Age of Terror with The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy, an account of relations between President Clinton and Russian leader Boris Yeltsin. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that "Clinton took a personal interest … in helping Yeltsin" and added that "Talbott reveals Clinton's painstaking efforts in this regard." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed that he "depicts Clinton's steadfast, affectionate loyalty toward ‘Ol' Boris.’" Critic Michael Elliott praised The Russia Hand in his Time analysis as "excellent," and Paul Starobin, writing in Business Week, described Talbott's book as "perceptive."
Published in 2006, Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb is a look at "the role political bickering among and within countries has played in allowing nuclear proliferation to continue, as well as an examination of the United States' relationship with South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan," as Amrita Rajan put it in his review of the book for Blog Critics. In 1998, India conducted its first nuclear test, and just two weeks later, Pakistan did the same. In an effort to get some control over this situation, the Clinton administration entered into intense negotiations with India, and Talbott, in his former role as deputy secretary of state, was chosen as the point person for these negotiations. The book recounts his efforts trying to persuade Jaswant Singh, then India's foreign minister, to agree to four nonproliferation benchmarks, including the endorsement of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists critic Appu K. Soman felt that "descriptions of melodramatic meetings in which Pakistani officials alternated between bluntly rejecting Talbott's approaches and pathetically pleading their helplessness make for entertaining reading." However, Soman also felt that "they do not mitigate for the book's failure to offer much by way of new information on substantive issues." "The book is at best a flawed narrative of a flawed and not very consequential exercise in diplomacy, in pursuit of unachievable goals," concluded Soman. On the other hand, Rajan thought that the book "is a must read for those interested in South Asia and nuclear diplomacy, not just because of its sheer readability but because it is an honest effort to look at diplomacy, democracy and the bomb outside the set limits of Mr. Talbott's role as a former American administrator. And in the process he provides us with more than 200 of the most entertaining pages available on recent world history." "Even though this book is focused on a particular segment of recent American diplomatic history, it should be of interest to more than specialists of South Asian politics," contended Parameters critic Sumit Ganguly. The author "writes with clarity, verve, and a remarkable attention to vivid detail. His graceful and compelling prose, coupled with the insight that he provides into the complex negotiating process, should make Engaging India attractive to a much wider audience," concluded Ganguly. Critic Michael Krepon, writing in Arms Control Today, also noted the book's wide appeal: "This book is essential for South Asia experts and easy reading for the curious."
In his 2008 book, The Great Experiment: The Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Quest for a Global Nation, "Talbott goes back to biblical tales and early history to look at past efforts of tribes becoming nations and nations working toward global cooperation," Dean Poling explained in his review of the book for the Valdosta Daily Times. A Publishers Weekly critic felt that in the book the author "makes an eloquent but predictable appeal for progress toward ‘global governance’ under the auspices of the United Nations."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors in the News, Volume 1, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1976.
Arms Control Today, September 1, 2004, Michael Krepon, review of Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb, p. 46.
Booklist, November 15, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Great Experiment: The Story of Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Quest for a Global Nation, p. 9.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 1, 2005, review of Engaging India, p. 65.
Business Week, July 8, 2002, Paul Starobin, "Did Bill Forgive Boris Too Much?," p. 20.
Cleveland Press, March 7, 1974, interview with Strobe Talbott.
Economist, January 19, 2008, review of The Great Experiment, p. 91.
Foreign Affairs, winter, 1980, review of Endgame: The Inside Story of SALT II.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2002, review of The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy, p. 479; October 15, 2007, review of The Great Experiment.
Library Journal, February 1, 2002, Marcia L. Sprules, review of The Age of Terror: America and the World after September 11, p. 75; October 15, 2004, John F. Riddick, review of Engaging India, p. 76.
New Republic, January 30, 1989, Stanley Hoffmann, review of The Master of the Game: Paul Nitze and the Nuclear Peace, p. 31.
Newsweek, November 5, 1984, Jim Miller, review of Deadly Gambits: The Reagan Administration and the Stalemate in Nuclear Arms Control, p. 91.
New York Review of Books, January 19, 1989, Lord Zuckerman, review of The Master of the Game, p. 21.
Parameters, March 22, 2006, Sumit Ganguly, review of Engaging India, p. 145.
Publishers Weekly, May 13, 2002, review of The Russia Hand, p. 63; October 29, 2007, review of The Great Experiment, p. 43.
Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2006, review of Engaging India.
Time, July 8, 2002, Michael Elliott, "Moscow without Tears," p. 87.
Times (London, England), January 24, 1985, Richard Owen, review of Deadly Gambits.
Valdosta Daily Times, July 10, 2008, Dean Poling, review of The Great Experiment.
Washington Monthly, January 1, 2005, "Currying Favor: Forget about Iran—Strobe Talbott Says We Couldn't Even Keep Our Ally India from Getting the Bomb."
Washington Post Book World, October 28, 1979, Deborah Shapley, review of Endgame, p. 8.
Blog Critics,http://blogcritics.org/ (March 23, 2006), Amrita Rajan, review of Engaging India.
Department of State Web site,http://www.state.gov/ (September 3, 2008), biographical information on Strobe Talbott.
Lawyers, Guns & Money,http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/ (May 11, 2008), Amrita Rajan, review of The Great Experiment.
[Sketch reviewed by research assistant, Katie Short.]